The purpose of politico-military simulation exercises is to examine how policy issues are evaluated and acted upon at the national level and to generate data which can be used to develop recommendations for senior policy makers in potential future crisis situations. Simulation exercises provide a unique opportunity to inform key decision-makers about existing or emerging security risks, threats, and issues, to identify problems and opportunities in national security policy decision-making, and to expose future leaders to realistic international challenges.
Simulation exercises have been widely and successfully used in the military, civilian government, academic, and even the business communities for many years. They have been proven to offer ideal opportunities for individuals involved in national security policy development and/or implementation to:
- Pool collective expertise;
- Shed light on intangible or ill-defined problems;
- Combine widely disparate factors and approaches, such as military, political, economic, and ideological;
- Expose players to diverse opinions and options;
- Include competition and interaction in policy analysis;
- Identify and anticipate future problems and opportunities in national security;
- Promote international understanding among policy makers.
A strict policy of non-attribution applies to all players’ remarks and comments during a simulation exercise. Adherence to this policy promotes an environment conducive to candid discussion, and fosters the presentation of innovative solutions to complex problems.
Players are encouraged to take full advantage of the opportunities simulation exercises offer. Scenarios are usually written to be somewhat provocative in order to facilitate discussion of important issues that may have greater or lesser degrees of plausibility and probability in the real world. The scenario is designed to sensitize players to the key issues, dilemmas, and constraints, challenges and opportunities that could arise in an actual crisis situation.
Events depicted in the simulation may or may not resemble those in the real world. More important for the purposes of the organizers and participants in this exercise is the opportunity to better understand how participating countries and organizations might make decisions for conflict prevention and resolution.
The ISSP simulation exercise is “an operating model of reality,” drastically reduced in scope and limited in time. It allows participants to play roles as decision-makers on the international scene, and to experience the problems and processes of managing a crisis or resolving a conflict. SIMULEX is an opportunity to put concepts into practice and to share with one’s peers an experience not normally available.
Politico-military simulation illuminates and examines crisis and consequence management, communication, and decision-making in crisis situations. Despite the fact that the “real world” context of international behavior is missing, there is still intense personal involvement in handling the decisions and actions called for within specified time limits. At the inter-personal level there is an opportunity to observe the processes of situation definition, information search, risk taking, group compromise, and policy formulation. Simultaneously, at the inter-team level, such interactions as bargaining, negotiation, and the communication of intent, commitment, and resolve are present. It is a useful methodology for generating new hypotheses, and for learning and testing the policy planning process. Simulation is a technique for generating measurable insights, and frequently dramatizes the importance of communications and the role of the unanticipated.
It is not a goal of the exercise to devise one or more solutions to the particular scenario of SIMULEX, to be applied to current or future real world situations. Such exercise play, even by experts, may have little true significance for any real future situation. The exercise is not predictive, nor is its purpose to practice actual contingency planning for any particular nation. It is not intended to point the finger at individuals by name and/or parties or groups or to attribute positions to them in the record of the game. Instead, we have several objectives:
- to gain a greater appreciation of factors underlying national goals, strategies, policies and to understand international concerns and options in the presence of a threat to security;
- to achieve an awareness of internal and external pressures, relationships, and obstacles in crisis decision-making, i.e., performing under stress;
- to experience some of the problems and constraints confronting real world decision-makers in allocating resources to translate national goals into specific international policies and courses of action;
- to learn about the advantages and limitations of simulation as a learning tool.
SIMULEX uses a simulated crisis situation (hypothetical scenario), involving real countries, current events and historical background. The scenario projects an imaginary conflict environment into the near future, requiring decision making to further national interests. This will not be a “zero sum” game; there is no expected clear cut winner or loser.
A general situation of conflict with the expectation of escalation is presented in the scenario, and teams of players are assigned to simulate the roles of the principal figures, factors, or forces which could be expected to play a significant role in the situation. A “Control Team” acts as umpire and information resource, and is the channel of communication for the interaction among player parties. Roles will be identified; objectives, policies, and contingency plans summarized; and actions taken over successive “move periods.” As much real background information will be used as time allows, and players are expected to immerse themselves in the situation and play their parts as imaginatively as possible. Role-playing does not mean emulation of the policy-making style of known political figures, but rather adapting one’s own optimal strategy for the crisis as it unfolds, within the limits of historical plausibility and technical feasibility.
Play develops through reaction to moves and information exchanged among the teams, with time-out simulating the actual passage of time thus allowing for the assimilation of information as the basis for new estimates and moves. Control may “steer” events in a given direction to emphasize certain predetermined learning objectives by introducing new information, unrepresented parties, or acts of God. However, as far as possible, Control permits free play to develop in accordance with team interaction; thus, team members must “live with” and “be responsible” for the results of their decisions.
Realism in the feasibility of moves is an essential ingredient of successful play. For example, a political exercise will work only if it posits a conflict among teams. An effective player, must try to identify realistically with his or her assigned role.
The role of the Control Team is to integrate the information and proposed actions from all sources and mesh them into a balanced, rational synthesis of events. This synthesis creates the new situation for the next move period, reflecting the implications and conditions created by the strategies of the playing teams. Control represents all governments not designated as the playing teams, public opinion, and national intelligence capabilities of governments represented.
One facet of the operation of Control, which must be understood, is that Control, not the team, specifies the outcome of any planned and ordered action. For instance, if a team orders its armed forces to make a particular move by sending appropriate messages to the necessary addressees, Control, rather than the team, will announce to appropriate parties the results of the ordered action. The team makes the policy decisions; Control implements them and determines their outcome(s). Control does not judge “right” and “wrong” moves, but does have the authority (rarely exercised in practice) to rule out moves on the grounds of implausibility, or that may counter pre-determined objectives.
POINTS TO PONDER
Communication will be less than perfect and immediate, but this is also very realistic. Not all the desired information or assistance will always be available—this will test your ability to “make do” in a crisis. Finally, all reasonable recommendations for improvement are welcome.
General: Exercise decisions are made by each team during the specified “move periods,” and transmitted to the Control team which will communicate results to all parties concerned. Action “move periods” will commence with a current summary of latest events, followed by decisions to take action implemented by means of written messages. Action periods and game time flow may be discontinuous, depending partially on results of the interaction of teams, as determined by Control. “Move periods” average 3 hours. There will be at least three such periods, with breaks in between.
Playing Teams: In this exercise the participants are divided into teams; these playing teams represent the major states and other units concerned with potential action to resolve the crisis described in the scenario.
Each team is free to organize itself to carry out crisis decision-making, and provide for functional as well as national representation: e.g., diplomatic, economic, military, propaganda, etc. The final organization of each team will be evaluated for effectiveness in the final critique.
The members of playing teams are expected to share equitably the responsibility for preparation of team strategy and actions. With only a relatively short time available for teams to analyze their problems and reach consensus, it is not possible achieve unanimity. This of course parallels real-life decision-making. If an individual team member feels strongly about his or her own position, a “dissent” may be filed with Control (see a controller if this becomes an issue). Again, they should be prepared to defend their position in the wrap-up critique.
Strategy Development and Action Move Periods: All playing teams are free to choose the general strategies they wish to follow, within the constraints imposed by the scenario and the requirement of plausibility. Teams are free to change or adopt a “deviant” strategy if necessary, and are not confined to actual past strategies of their assigned countries, but must communicate changes to Control before implementation.
Communications: All communications will be channeled through Control. This is necessary for the orderly development of the game, to avoid duplication and chaos, and so that Control may be kept informed and avoid peripheral tangents detracting from primary exercise considerations. Approval will be expedited to the maximum extent possible, but possible communications “delays” are also realistic.
Intelligence: Understandably, not all the detail required would be available about the situation and countries involved. But then, in reality, it never is. Players may use their outside knowledge of actual conditions in the area as still existing in the exercise unless specified to be different by the Scenario or Control. Lacking knowledge, use your imagination to make reasonable and adequate assumptions, identifying them as such if important to the game. If all else fails, you may request specific information from Control (by message). Control should use its best judgment in making available intelligence, which might reasonably be expected to be collectible, and also in leaking that information, to the press or others, which might be expected to be leaked. Players should refrain from seeking “unofficial” information; i.e., by eavesdropping or rifling a rival team’s documents between moves. Only members of Control are trusted agents and may observe team discussions.
World Press: Members of Control will be designated as “World Press Representatives.” They may be treated as reporters would be—granted access and information when to your advantage, and denied it if believed harmful. They will prepare brief “news items” to be issued as Control sees fit (usually at the start of each period) listing events and stated positions or intentions of teams (not necessarily truthful). (Control’s scenario additions will be separately identified and will be accepted as fact.) The “Press” will exercise its own initiative to dig out stories on what is happening and why, and seek interviews as well as briefings. Their views and analyses will form a separate part of the record and a basis for evaluation and comment in the critique.
Critique: After the end of play is announced by Control, all participants will gather in the Auditorium for a critique and evaluation session, which is a required and very important part of the exercise. It will be a time for full disclosure and discussion of team strategies, actions, and reasoning. It may include comments by or about Control, and recommendations for form and administration of future exercises. The entire exercise is expected to end no later than 5:00 p.m. on Saturday.
STEPS FOR RESOLVING AN INTERNATIONAL CRISIS
- Determine what the real crisis is.
- Get the “right experts” on the job.
- Assess effects upon national security interests of the United States and upon those of the other countries involved.
- Determine short-term and long-term implications for the United States and other involved countries.
- Identify immediate and longer-range objectives.
- Identify specific actions to be taken in resolving or limiting crisis.
- Plan for contingencies; anticipate reactions of other parties to the crisis.
- Start discussions as quickly as possible, but negotiate seriously only after the facts are in and the steps above have been completed.
- Keep the right people informed and “in-the-loop.”